English A CXC Past Papers Exercise

by Powell

CXC past paper type reading comprehension questions

These questions do not have any suggested answers. You should attempt to answer them to give yourself practice on CXC type reading comprehension questions. These are the types of questions that will appear in section 2, paper 2 of the English A exam.

Pita panicked. There was nothing he could do. He was trapped. Trapped with hundreds of others. The monster had come and was slowly, surely dragging them from the deep. He swam through the excited crowd to try the bottom. Then he tried the top again. The great monster had encircled them completely. There were millions of holes in its great hands, but none large enough. If only they were a little larger. Pita tried to push himself through one of the holes again. He squeezed and squeezed. Great tails lashed around him. Not only he but against his eyes. If only his head could get through. He pushed again, hard, and the pain quivered through his body.

There was nothing he could do. He heard the breakers roaring above now. That meant they were nearing the shore. Pita whipped his tail in fury. The monster was gradually closing its hands. There were cries now above the surface. Below, the monster grated on sand. The shore! They had reached the shore! Frantically, Pita flung himself against one of the tiny holes. He gave a cry as the scales tore from his back – then a cry of joy. He was free! Free!

He lunged forward below the surface. Down he sped, rejoicing in his tinyness. If he was only a little bigger, he would have been dying on the shore now. The fateful shore! There had been those who had actually come back from that world. This was one of the great mysteries. But some said they had been there, and had talked of that awesome place.

There was no more blood now. Down he swam. Deep, deep until the sound of the breakers was only a bitter memory, and the sea was not sandy but blue and clear, and until, far, far away in the distance, green with fern and the tender moss, he saw the rocks of home.


  1. To whom or what does ‘he’ refer? (1 mark)
  2. What effect is the author trying to create by using short sentences in the passage? (2 marks)
  3. State ONE word which could describe Pita’s feelings when he realised, There were millions of holes … but none large enough. (2 marks)
  4. Why does the author repeat ‘squeezed’ in line 6? (3 marks)
  5. Who or what does the ‘monster’ refer to? (2 marks)
  6. Why does the writer use ‘fateful’ to describe the shore? (2 marks)
  7. Why does Pita utter a cry of joy? (1 mark)
  8. Why was ‘the sound of the breakers’ a bitter memory? (2 marks)


  1. ‘He’ refers to a fish
  2. The writer is trying to create suspense, tension &fast-moving action.
  3.  Words that describe pita feelings are Alarm, anxiety, frustration, desperation.
  4. The word ‘’squeezed inline 6’’ is repeated to emphasize the tremendous effort the fish is making to escape.
  5. The  word ‘monster’ refers to the fishing  net
  6. The word is used because that is where the fate of the fish was decided/where the death took place.
  7. Pita utters a cry of joy as he was now free.
  8.  The sound of the breaker will always remind him of the place where he almost died.

Paper 2 sample poem

Read the following poem carefully and answer the questions which follow it.

                Growing pains

            My child-eyes cried for chocolate treats

                 And sticky sweets

                ‘Twill rot yu’ teet’!

5                   Tinkly silver wrapper hides Germs



                       How can a child-eye see?

                      This child-heart cried for mid-teen

10                  A blow, a shove

                     Study yuh’ book!

                    Leather jacket

                       Football boots

                   Are not the most sought-after truths

       15          How can a child-heart know?

                    So watch the young-girl-heart take wing!

Watch her groove

                        And watch her swing

She’s old enough

             20     She’s strong and tough

                     She’ll see beneath the silver wrapper

                   Beneath the flashy football boots

                  She’ll find the great sought-after truth

                    That child-eye tears are not as sad

            25    And child-heart pain is not as bad

                       As grown-up tears and grown-up pain

                       Oh Christ, what do we have to gain From    

                         growing up

                          For throwing up

30                    Our childlike ways

                        For dim


Grown-up days.



(a)(i)Who is likely to have said the following lines: ‘Twill rot yu’ teet’! (line 3) and Study yu’ book! (line 11)

 (ii)What effect is the writer trying to create by using them? (3 marks)

 (b) In what ways is the content of the first two stanzas (lines 1 – 15) similar?

(3 marks)


(c) Why does the poet refer to leather jacket (line 12) and; football boots (line 13)? (2 marks)

 (d) Comment on the poet’s choice of the following words:

(i)Tinkly (line 4)

(ii)dim (line 31) (2 marks)

 (e) What do the following lines,  She’ll see beneath the silver wrapper

Beneath the flashy football boots … (lines 21 – 22) tell us about the young girl?

(2 marks)

(f)What is suggested by the poet in the last seven lines (lines 27 – 33) of the poem? (2 marks)


  • The words would have been spoken by an adult, possibly a parent.
  • The content of the first two stanzas is similar in that they show the views/concerns of the adult with regard to the child. Also, both stanzas offer guidance from the adult.
  • The poet refers to leather jackets and football boots, items which we associate with the male, to indicate that these attract teenage girls.
  • (i) Tinkly is an example of the figurative device, onomatopoeia; hence it appeals to the sense of hearing. Children will be attracted to the sound of the paper

(ii) Through the use of dim, the poet maintains the contrast between childhood and adulthood, innocence and experience.

  • The lines tell us that the young girl realizes later on in life that things are not what they seem to be. She would arrive at this position because of her maturity and experience.

(f) The poet is saying that it is difficult for anyone to see why adulthood, with all its problems, should be preferred to childhood.

paper 1 sample of a poem


        What is life if, full of care,

         We have no time to stand and stare?

              No time to stand beneath the bough

           And stare as long as sheep or cows.

5          No time to see, in broad daylight,

              Stream full of stars, like skies at night

                   No time to turn at beauty’s glance,

                  And watch her feet, how they dance.

             No time to wait till their mouth can

   10       Enrich that smiles her eyes began

              A poor life this is, full of care,

                We have no time to stand and stare


  1. When the poet says ‘’full of care’’ (line1) he means a life full of.





  • The poet  uses the idea ‘’stare as long as sheep or cows’’ (line4) because he thinks we should

Stop being busy and relax

Relax and boughs

Gaze at the beauty of the skies

Stand and observe our surroundings

  •  The poet implies that we need leisure in our life for it to be





  • ‘’streams full of stars, like skies at night ‘’ ( line6) is an example of





  • ‘’no time to turn….her eyes began’’ (line7-10) is an example of





  • In which of the following lines does the poet answer the question asked in lines 1 and 2 ?

Line 3

Line 4

Line 9

Line 11


  1. Anger
  2. Stop being busy and relax
  3. Meaningful
  4. Simile
  5. Personification
  6. Line 11

The School Teacher

       Miss Lambert sat at a table in the centre of the room picking

        Her ear with a pencil, with her head cocked to one side.

    The pupils cuffed each other, pinched and Tommy was scratching a piece of chalk underneath the  desk with as innocent a face

5   as he could hold, so that the boy sat next to him would soil

    his serge trousers later on. His hand, the white chalk in it,

    moved slowly, curving round and round with the same motion

    that the yellow pencil made, as Miss Lambert twisted it round

  and round her face pained, grimaced and from time to time

10     bore and expression of ecstatic pleasure. But the pupils knew

      her sudden glances, the instant stare of her large and flared

     out eyes caught them. One second she was looking out into

    space, and they dared to yawn, or whisper; then there were

     Miss Lambert’s eyes. As  if by instinct they knew that when  she

15  picked  her ears  with a sharpened pencil they were free from the

quick and sudden jerks of her head  that let her eyes catch them

in some smoke kind of mischief.

                                                        From The Jumbie Bird by Ismith Khan 


The students misbehaved because they knew Miss Lambert

Had flared-out eyes that caught them

Could not catch them at that moment.

Was sitting at a table in the centre of the room

Was feeling pain at the time

  • Miss Lambert cocked her head to one side to

Hear what they were saying

Pick her ears

Look out into space

Twist it round and round

  • Tommy had ‘as innocent a face as he could hold’ (line4-5) because he

Was pretending he was doing nothing

Had been given a piece of chalk

Liked Miss Lambert quite a lot

Never misbehaved in class

  • The white chalk was being used to

Write on the board

Mark another boy’s desk

Practice his writing

Twist around with the yellow pencil

  • Miss Lambert face bore an occasional expression of ecstatic pleasure

When she saw that Tommy was innocent

As she thought the pupils were leaving

Whenever she taught her class

At times when the scratching satisfied her

  •   The passage suggests that Miss Lambert was Mostly

Very strict

A dreamer

Quite easygoing

Old and tired

  • On most occasions when they misbehaved Miss Lambert

Let them get away with it

Would stare into space

Discovered them immediately

Felt ecstatic pleasure

  • The passage suggests that Miss Lambert’s pupils

Knew her quite well

Were very small in her eyes

Were always fighting in one another

Could not understand her

  • One of the main techniques the writer employs in this passage is


Visual imagery


Sound imagery

In this passage the author writes in the way he does in order to get the reader to

Understand the problems children give

Visualize the scene from the children’s point of view

See the scene through the teacher’s eyes

Develop a dislike for Miss Lambert


Could not catch them at that moment.

Pick her ears

Was pretending he was doing nothing

Mark another boy’s desk

At times when the scratching satisfied her

Very strict

Discovered them immediately

Knew her quite well

Visual imagery

Visualize the scene from the children’s point of view

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